Synopses & Reviews
An unprecedented, intimate account of the lives of modern Chinese women, told by the women themselves -- true stories of the political and personal upheavals they have endured in their chaotic and repressive society
For eight groundbreaking years, Xinran hosted a radio program in China during which she invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Broadcast every evening, Words on the Night Breeze became famous throughout the country for its unflinching portrayal of what it meant to be a woman in modern China. Centuries of obedience to their fathers, husbands and sons, followed by years of fear under Communism, had made women terrified of talking openly about their feelings. Xinran won their trust and, through her compassion and ability to listen, became the first woman to hear their true stories.
This unforgettable book is the story of how Xinran negotiated the minefield of restrictions imposed on Chinese journalists to reach out to women across the country. Through the vivid intimacy of her writing, these women confide in the reader, sharing their deepest secrets. Whether they are the privileged wives of party leaders or peasants in a forgotten corner of the countryside, they tell of almost inconceivable suffering: forced marriages, sexual abuse, separation of parents from their children, extreme poverty. But they also talk about love -- about how, despite cruelty, despite politics, the urge to nurture and cherish remains. Their stories changed Xinrans understanding of China forever. Her book will reveal the lives of Chinese women to the West as never before.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Xinran was born in 1958. After a career in the army, she became a journalist in the late 1980s, working as a radio broadcaster and as head of Jiangsu Broadcasting Television. A professor of psychology, Xinran now lives in England.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. Do you think that Xinran's mission with the Words on the Night Breeze and The Good Women of China, can ultimately be traced back to her own problematic relationship with her mother, and her absent father?
2. In her prologue, Xinran tells of when she risked her life fighting an attacker for her bag, as it contained her only finished manuscript. Would you do the same? Is life more important than a book?
3. How far do you accept the old Chinese saying that woman's nature is like water and man's nature is like mountains? Consider to what extent this applies to both Western and Chinese cultures.
4. Do you think Xinran agrees with the water/mountain comparison by the end of her stories? Consider this in the light of her use of imagery, and how these two motifs are used within the text.
5. Looking back at The Woman Who Loved Women story, do you think that if Taohong had not been raped she still would have found herself only able to love women? Is she really homosexual or just badly scarred?
6. It might be said that in some way Xinran is worthy of criticism for choosing to settle in England, leaving the women of China to a world that is still so behind Western standards of equality. Do you agree?
7. Which of the stories did you find most disturbing, and why?